Race and Isms
APOLOGIES (written a few nights ago)
Sorry about that blog craziness last night. If you’re seeing a bunch of entries listed it’s because I had some myspace troubles last night. Every time I tried to post the blog I’d get a server error. So out of frustration I kept trying. And myspace kept logging the entry without actually posting it. Eventually, I went to bed and then posted this morning. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do to remove all those extra ones that show up, if they are indeed showing up that way for you.
RACE AND ISMS
A few weeks ago I went to a concert with a friend — white chick (but not a Wayans) — at the 9:30 Club in DC. I work on 7th St in Chinatown and since I’m doing my walking thing, it’s about a mile+ walk due north. Chinatown/Penn Quarter is a very gentrified, diverse, happening city venue. 7th and H is a mini-Times Square.
However, if you go three to four blocks north of where I work, right past the convention center, you will find yourself in the Shaw neighborhood. In the hood.
This explains where the wonderful clientele at the Chinatown Gallery Place Theater who ensure that you can’t hear or appreciate the movie are coming from. That’s right, I said it! Black people act like it’s a Baptist revival but with more cursing, threats of violence and junk food.
Anyway, so it’s the hood amidst occasional gentrification. There were li’l black kids riding their bikes around, loud ghetto black women, dudes hanging out, some playing ball. Half mummified looking older black folk, an occasional homeless person or drug addict. And of course, the ubiquitous white people jogging or walking their dogs. Gotta admire that pioneer spirit.
I had never been in this neighborhood before, but you know. Well, once maybe. Walked through after a movie in Gallery Place (“Curse of the Golden Flower”). So I’m just walking, listening to myiPod, checking my phone for messages.
So my friend calls, turns out that she didn’t take the metro like I had thought. My phone rings and she tells me that she’s walking to meet me. And then she said, “Oh. Hold on. I’d better get off the phone before someone steals it.”
And I said, “What?!”
She said, “No, I’m serious.”
As if somebody is just going to walk up to her, pimp slap her and take her phone.
On my way to meet her at the Shaw/Howard U. metro stop, I noticed a Giant Grocery Store there so the next day I decided to walk there for lunch and to do some shopping. It’s the closest grocery store to that part of town. I went with a co-worker. Caucasian. He was quite upset with me for making him walk through the hood. He seemed to be under the impression that he was going to be attacked. He was VERY uncomfortable.
He looked at me and said, “I hate you.”
Ha haa. That was kind of funny. Until I thought about it. The thing is, he was VERY uncomfortable and there were hardly any people, not to mention black people, hanging out and doing their thing like the night before. It was the middle of the afternoon.
So I was like, “Dude, I don’t get it. I don’t understand what the problem is. There’s hardly anyone out. There’s cop cars here and there, it’s right near the Convention Center so it’s heavily patrolled by theMPD , it’s just a few blocks from the metro station. There are some white people milling about. These are just people. They’re human beings and they’re just minding their business going about their lives.”
THIS BOTHERED ME
I was thinking, this is some racist bulls—. You know? The white guy that listens to rap music (and thinks he’s cool for it) and bumps it in his car, but is mortified when there’s actual black dudes around. It really brought to light how terrified these average white folks are of black people. Like they think black people are uninhibited, out of control primates with no impulse control. And I thought of the whole 3/5ths human thing.
It’s friggin’ ridiculous.
I’M NO BILL COSBY
Granted, I would not walk through the Shaw neighborhood at night with my iPod blaring and cell phone conspicuously on my hip.
About a mile and a half away there have been 7 shootings in 9 nights in the Trinidad neighborhood in DC, which is just a few blocks from Union Station. And Metro released a report that said that most crime occurred at the end of the metro lines. 7 out of 9 metro stations with the highest crime rates were in PG County, which is synonymous with black folk. Some black kids tried to snatch a fellow co-workersiPod one day after work. The DC area is rife with car thefts and almost every time you see it on the news, when the thieves get caught they’re (you guessed it) young black guys with dreads. Or if you don’t see them, you see reports of high speed car chases heading into PG County.
It’s not uncommon in the area for pre-teens and teens to steal cars.
Shootings in Southeast DC. A black teenager was shot by a policeman a few months back. His mother was on the news and said that she knew he had a gun and he had it for self-protection.
A 24 year old was shot and killed. Don’t remember what city. His mother was on the news. She said the police got her son killed because they made him look like a snitch.
The guy I walked to Giant with, his experience of black guys was from school where black dudes would walk down the middle of the hall, bump into anyone in their way, and then talk s—. Ready to start some mess if anybody challenged them.
DC, if you’re talking per capita, used to be and is usually a contender for the highest murder rate in the nation. Like in many cities, it’s mostly black guys killing each other.
If you ever want to break a fast food habit, go to the McDonald’s at the Verizon Center. You will see enough withered black folks in the form of homeless people or drug addicts or obese diabetics. It’s not a pretty sight.
It looks like a lot of people have lived some hard, hard lives. And it looks like some people have made some bad, bad decisions.
You knooooow. The media doesn’t help. We, as black people, get a bad rap. People all over the word are afraid of us and often despise us. They know what they see on TV and in movies. And maybe from their own immigrants.
But car thieves don’t help. And drug dealers. Murderers. Robbers.
There are socio-economic reasons for such things, for sure. Poverty, lack of education, broken families, the legacy of the Jim Crow era, the festering psychological inheritance of slavery, drugs and the drug culture. The crack cocaine epidemic really destroyed some communities and was permitted to do so by the government at the time. Thanks, Reagan. A law was passed in the 80’s that said that the CIA was allowed to look the other way when it encountered the drug trade and they were quite aware of the drug trafficking that was happening at the time. They saw it happening and they sat back and watched (The Dark Alliance ). Here are findings from the Kerry Report.
There are reasons, but they should not be used as excuses.
The thing is, many aspects of black culture are self-destructive. I won’t say that one culture is necessarily better than another. But they each have things about them that are good and bad.
A culture where teenagers are having children, where young men are killing each other, where material acquisition at any cost is the goal, where academic excellence is not valued, the highest held value is “don’t snitch”, and young men find a sense of honor in being street soldiers of materialism, is a culture of self-destruction.
And the odd thing is, through the hip-hop industry, it’s a cash cow. People are getting rich exploiting and sustaining this culture, glamorizing a lifestyle of sex and death.
It’s my belief that we’re all connected, right. Whether it’s socially communicable diseases, drug epidemics, poverty, unemployment or whatever, the inner city is a microcosm of the outer city, which is just an accelerated concentrated version of the ‘burbs. You can not touch one without touching all.
A few decades ago, people used to talk about the deleterious effects of single family homes, overwhelmingly fatherless, in the black community. Tragic. And now look at our society as a whole. The divorce rates. The number of women raising kids by themselves. It wasn’t always like this. We’ve just gotten used to it.
You’ve got crack in the cities and meth in the rural areas.
Black boys and men gunning each other down over turf and pride. White kids going on suicidal, murderous rampages, trying to take out as many people as they can before they kill themselves.
You ever go to the movies on a weekend night and see all the suburban teenagers hanging out? You ever listen to them talk? They often sound like they could have just walked off of an episode of the Jerry Springer show.
But herein, in my mind, also lies the good news. If we’re all interconnected, what happens when we elevate people in the inner city. Provide affordable housing, training programs, dignified living conditions that aren’t segregated, charter schools and magnate programs. Or when the suburban latchkey kids have after school programs, mentors and outlets for their talents.
You can not touch one without touching all.
Well, that was quite a ramble. I’ve been sitting in front of a computer for too long today. I’m through.
Hasta la vista, baby.